Crisis pregnancy centres (CPCs) in North America continue to face new attacks from the abortion industry, including a recently released NARAL Pro-Choice California Foundation report titled “Unmasking Fake Clinics: The Truth About Crisis Pregnancy Centres in California” and a brand new documentary by the directors of the controversial documentary Jesus Camp, not to mention a Toronto Star hit piece on Toronto-area CPCs (See article below).
The 20-page NARAL report “discusses research done by nonprofits, think tanks, and lawmakers on how CPCs function on a national scale,” and presents the results of NARAL’s own “investigative research.” The report paints a picture of CPCs as sinister anti-abortion outposts staffed by unqualified volunteers who use lies and deception to coerce women into choosing not to have an abortion.
The main charge dwelled upon in the report is that CPC counselors all provide “medically innaccurate information.” NARAL cites the following well-documented medical findings as examples of “innaccurate” information: “that the hormonal birth control increases the risk of infertility and breast cancer”; “that condoms are ineffective in reducing pregnancy and the transmission of certain STDs”; “that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer”; “that abortion increases the risk of infertility; and that “abortion leads to mental health problems.”
NARAL also charges CPCs of claiming to be medical organizations without having the necessary qualifications, and of targeting ‘vulnerable’ women including those “of color, young women, women living in rural locations, and low-income women.” The report claims CPCs locate themselves near abortuaries and use ambiguous advertising to confuse unsuspecting women into thinking they offer abortions. Counselors “pressure pregnant women into putting their children up for adoption with conservative religious adoption agencies,” and even “connect these women with maternity homes where they are isolated and continually pressured to give their child up for adoption.”
The California report is not unique. In January 2009, the Pro-Choice Action Network published a 65-page report “Exposing Crisis Pregnancy Centres in British Columbia.” Their information was gathered in much the same manner as the previously mentioned NARAL report, and contains many of the same accusations, only in much greater detail and with a heavier emphasis on the religious nature of many CPCs.
The Interim spoke about this report to volunteer Dorothy Emmerson of the pro-life Comox Valley Pregnancy Care Centre in Courtenay, B.C.. Emmerson adamantly denied the charge of deception in advertising and counseling: “I would say that’s absolutely false. We are very open here about our program and what we offer our clients. We definitely let our clients know that we would like them to choose life, however, like I say, the decision is left up to them. There’s no forcing or trying to coerce them into making a different decision.”
She said, “On our part I think it’s good to be upfront so that the clients know. And like I said earlier, if the clients do ask [if abortions and birth controls are provided] we quickly tell them that no, that’s not what we’re about.” As an example of her centre’s advertising, Emmerson read out the text of her business card: “Pregnancy care centre. Helping you make a wise and informed choice – free and confidential”
Last year the Baltimore City Counsel approved a local ordinance requiring crisis pregnancy centres to post a sign on their door saying they do not provide or refer women for abortion or birth control. The Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, which supports CPCs in the city, filed a lawsuit against the city for violating the rights of their church members to freedom of speech and religion.
The Pro-Choice Action Network report accuses CPCs of exaggerating their ability to help clients, and promising medical treatment they are unable and unqualified to provide. Emmerson denied these accusations, explaining that her centre in many respects acts as a referral agency, “we have a big referral list, we have advisory people. We have doctors we have pastors, counselors – if a client needs counseling that is not within our mandate then we refer them. We do post-abortion counseling here, and there’s extensive training for that, and that’s about it. We do not have any medical staff here and we definitely don’t say that we do.”
When asked about the accusation that CPCs engage in religious proselytizing, Emmerson explained that as an affiliate of the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services, “We’re here as an outreach ministry for people to come to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. However, on that note, we do not force that on them either. We have an intake form that we do and we ask them if they have a faith, and we just mark down their faith. That opens up the door to talk to them – we do – but if they’re not open, we don’t.”
The highly publicized 2007 American documentary Jesus Camp, about an evangelical children’s Bible camp, is infamous among Christians for its widespread use as an anti-Christian propaganda tool. Ron Reno of Focus on the Family wrote, “it appears that (the camp members) were unknowingly being manipulated by the directors in their effort to cast evangelical Christianity in an unflattering light.”
Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, the two co-directors of Jesus Camp, recently came out with a new documentary called 12th and Delaware, about a Florida CPC located across the street from an abortuary. The film is being welcomed by leaders in the abortion industry as a powerful exposé of the supposed underhand tactics typical of CPCs. Charlotte Taft, director of the Abortion Care Network calls it “a must see” film, and rejoices that “Finally a light is going to be shined on these cruel and dishonest places.” Pro-lifers, however, found it one-sided, even if it wasn’t as polemically biased as Jesus Camp.